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Hello Idaho: Depression, anxiety on the rise for teens

Young people and their parents often do not reach out for help soon enough because "they think they can handle it" or are worried about the stigma, an expert said.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — The teenage years can be some of the most difficult, and that has been enhanced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mental health hospitals have seen an increase in the number of adolescents suffering from depression and considering suicide.  

Karena Drewien, the executive director of operations and clinical services at Cottonwood Creek Behavioral Hospital, said her facility has seen a surge of young people struggling with their mental health.

"I'm not sure what exactly is causing that specifically, but I know that we've seen a lot of increases in the depression and the anxiety," she said. "I think that's largely attributed to the current state with the pandemic and all the other things that are causing a lot of confusion for young people."

Drewien noted that many people do not reach out for help soon enough because "they think they can handle it." Resources including counseling, medication, and other community-based intervention can help stave off crisis, she said. 

She said that often, a stigma around needing help is what keeps teens and their parents from reaching out until a situation is serious. Speaking up about ones mental health - and admitting they need assistance - doesn't make someone weak, Drewien insisted. 

"It actually means that you're strong, and seeking help from support systems and professionals is actually showing you have strength and that you are willing to address things even though they're hard," she said. "That's part of the problem with so much stigma against mental health, and seeking treatment for any sort of mental health struggles or hurdles in your life."

If you or someone you know needs help, the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24 hours a day at (208) 398-4357 or (800) 273-8255.

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